Thursday, November 20, 2014
Why do most people today not have rights at work that come from the US Constitution? That’s the puzzle at the heart of a just-published legal history: Sophia Z. Lee, The Workplace Constitution from the New Deal to the New Right (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014). Here’s the publisher’s description:
Today, most Americans lack constitutional rights on the job. Instead of enjoying free speech or privacy, they can be fired for almost any reason or no reason at all. This book uses history to explain why. It takes readers back to the 1930s and 1940s when advocates across the political spectrum – labor leaders, civil rights advocates, and conservatives opposed to government regulation – set out to enshrine constitutional rights in the workplace. The book tells their interlocking stories of fighting for constitutional protections for American workers, recovers their surprising successes, explains their ultimate failure, and helps readers assess this outcome.
From the book itself:
From the vantage point of the mid-twentieth century, the workplace Constitution’s future looked promising. In the 1930s and 1940s, two movements began trying to extend the Constitution to the workplace. They were opposed to each other politically but they shared this legal goal. One, the civil rights movement, would go on to capture the attention of the nation and dismantle Jim Crow. The other, the right-to-work movement, fought for open shops. Although its history is less well known, this second movement was supported by prominent politicians and opinion makers. Together, the two movements created a strange and contentious but politically powerful combination. Their successes and failures change the historical understanding of constitutional law, labor politics, civil rights struggles, and conservative movements.
The book’s website is here.
Hat tip: Legal History Blog